I’m high up and exposed. It’s winter, and the humidity and heat have finally subsided. It’s cold, really cold. The wind chills my body, but fires the core. The wall is 20 degrees overhung. I look up, relaxing the tension in my body, shaking out for a few seconds. Focus on your breath. I put my right foot on a slope on the arete, drop-knee toe-hook (yes really, it’s awesome), pull myself as much as I can into the left wall with my right foot, and huck with my right hand to a crimp above.
My fingers caress the hold and right foot flies backwards in a circular motion toward my left side. And I am flying through the air down, down swinging around the corner like a monkey in the amazon. I let out a scream naturally, I’ve been doing that a lot lately.
“This is absurd!!” I yell down to Ryan. “Seriously, where did this swing come from?” I can’t stop laughing. He looks up and smiles, knowing that I had never had a swing that dramatic before. I felt like a wild animal hunting in the forest. I can’t ever recall a time where I have climbed so dynamically.
Last week, I reached a new high point, doing all the moves on lead except for the throw to the anchor. This climb, The Real Legend, 13a, at Long Dong is the most aesthetic line here. It’s a prominent golden arete with orange and red varnish. The holds are pretty good but spaced far enough away for me to throw, heel hook, or cut-feet for most of the climb. The climbing is steep and the grade, intimidating, but the line is calling my name.
My resume doesn’t qualify me for this climb. When I told Ryan I started climbing 5.12 this year and had sent one 12b outside before, he gave me a silly look. I remember walking up to it with Jim for the first time. We were curious about hard climbing, about putting many months of effort into one climb. It felt silly to go back to it after 4-5 weeks of effort and still not do all of the moves.
Climb. Hang. Climb. Hang. Fall. TAKE!
One day, a few weeks back, I was top roping it, frustrated that I still couldn’t pull the crux. Why am I even on this thing? I’m not strong enough. The mind, the ego, has it’s elusive way of pulling me back with words. This is just silly. You haven’t sent anything since you’ve been here. And you haven’t touched most of Long Dong! I lowered off deflated and upset. Fear.
I tried it one more time that day and held onto the crux crimp for the first time. It goes! It really goes!
Faith had been restored.
Fear of the unknown is a terrifying thought for me, not just in climbing, but in life. Sometimes, I get it and take risks. Sometimes, I don’t and recoil with fear. A lot of this year I have been run over with fear - fear of missing out, fear of failing on a climb, fear of falling, fear of being alone, of losing myself. This fear has made me lose myself.
Projecting The Real Legend is my metaphor for life right now. I’ve been living in fear, in fear of not being good enough, of not being bold or balanced and not serving others - always wanting immediate success or known outcomes. After having those thoughts about the Legend, about how I had no business being on it, I decided to say, “Fuck it!”
I love that climb. It’s long, challenging, so beautiful, so powerful, and hard for me. I come back to the same route every weekend (weather permitting) and give it a few more attempts. I find some new beta, make new links or high points, skip clips. Every weekend, I learn something. The process is slow and sometimes frustrating, but I make progress and enjoy it. I laugh at the wild swings and falls that remind me to let lose and relax, that life shouldn’t be so serious all the time.
|Hanging out on one of the awesome 5.11's|
We walked down the steep, muddy trail that funnels rivers when it rains. It rained yesterday. Toothy, spiked deep green plants guard the wildlife from people. Two fisherman are perched on a pillar to our right as we look out over the ocean. They are sitting back, rods attached to an anchor, and lines 30 ft down into the water.
The sun peers through the clouds, making the ocean sparkle when we enter the Golden Valley to see The Real Legend. I turn around to see the route I am fixated on. “AH! I’m so psyched!” I shout and giggle. It ignites that fire in me, that stoke and passion that I have let guide me throughout my life
Life is projecting. Life requires persistence, patience, love, and forgiveness. Jim left almost six weeks ago, and I had puffy eyes for weeks. I cried at work, the coffee shop, alone in my room, at Long Dong. I was utterly alone, weekends to look forward to where I could speak to foreigners, but I spend my weeks at a job where I am one of the three English speakers other than the kids I teach. I never realized how a language barrier could be so debilitating.
I wished that over night, I wouldn’t feel this way. That I wouldn’t feel so far away from everything I loved and cared about. But it doesn’t happen that way, just like projecting something really hard for me doesn’t come over night.
I’ve made small changes to my life - time meditating every day, reading books about Buddhism, focusing on staying present (which is always hard), doing self-reflection, sleeping properly, stretching and healing my body, being open to Taiwanese culture instead of thinking the West has it figured out.
This return to self is coming along slowly, chipping away at the conditions of my past. Some days are good, some hurt. I still cry, but less. I’ve stopped writing to-do lists, rushing to things, creating a sense of urgency to feel productive. Now, I’m just trying to live, slowing down and focusing on healing the body and the soul.
Just like climbing, I am trying to let my soul guide me instead of fear. I hope this finds you well, and I encourage you to think long and deeply about yourself and where you are. Push yourself, step outside your comfort zone, and go for something that you soul calls you to.
|The views aren't too bad here.|